Suspicious Findings
Suspicious Findings
Arc: Strange Bedfellows
Summary: Iceblade asks several other close pilots to meet him down in one of the cargo bays to relay some suspicions about things going on in the Rygannon.
Date: 2659.105
Related Logs: Wolf In Cat's Clothing, Kitty on the Rocks
Participants: Phillip Paz James Walsh

Typical of the Majestic's cargo bays, this is a voluminous empty space situated approximately halfway down the starboard side of the ship. Blue markings on the floor mark maglev transit routes, and stacks of interlocking grey containers are arranged in neat formation around the markings. Though well lit overhead, the bulk of the containers leaves the area an odd patchwork shadow and light. A long, grey durasteel scar runs for the entire length of the starboard bulkhead, evidence of hasty patchwork to what must have at some point been a massive rent in the carrier's hull.

Paz makes her way into the cargo bay as requested, grumbling under her breath as she goes. "Okay, Ice, this had better be good," she says firmly. "I've only got two after-actions and a TO and E update to write by Midwatch."

James comes wandering into the bay just after Paz and looks around, "Ok I know things are bad but don't you think it's a little early to start planning seizing control of the ship Ice?" He quips as he comes around the last stack of containers then frowns, "Great Ice is late for his own meeting. I knew I should have brought a book besides my good luck charm."

As the pre-arranged time rolls around, Walsh makes the /arduous/ walk /all the way/ from the observation lounge to the cargo bay. As he enters, he spots James and Paz. "Guess we're waiting on Ice? Anyone have any idea what this is about?"

After about half a minute of the other three pilots entrance, Phillip walks into the bay. He quickly spots the others and heads toward them. As he gets closer, "Ah good, you are all here," he says softly such that only they can hear it. He takes a quick look around and heads toward a nearby shaded spot, motioning the other three to come along.

Paz chuckles to James and finds a spot to sit, giving Phillip a rather pointed look as she does so. "Yes, we're here," she says in her sweetest (read - most dangerous) tone. "Do you care to tell us why we are here?" she inquires pleasantly, grinning slightly. "As opposed to, oh, I dunno, doing our jobs?"

James takes a seat of his own a little ways forward of Paz's, "Or getting those two things we are likely to be very short of for some time, rest and relaxation I believe they are called?"

"So, uh, -love- the decor… Very… cloak and dagger," Walsh says, looking ever-so-slightly suspicious. "Just what -is- this about?"

Phillip looks back toward the other three for a quick second, "I'll tell you in a second, just come over here," he motions them again to follow him. Phillip continues toward the crate looking around a couple of times before walking behind one of the towers of crates.

If looks could maim, Phillip would be in sickbay. "Ice, for the love of Christ, mister," she sighs, hauling herself up from her seat wearily. "Will you just /spit/ /it/ /out/?"

James rises to his feet giving Phillip a glare similar to Paz's, "Have I ever mentioned how much I hate playing musical chairs?" he asks in an annoyed tone before beginning to follow Phillip.

"Alright, we'll hide in the shadows…" Walsh says, with some mixture of annoyance, amusement, and apprehension. He heads in the direction that Phillip disappeared in. "If you're going to stab me in the back, could you do it gently?"

Phillip looks toward the others as they head toward the shadows. "Okay," he begins, talking at a low volume, "I think there is a lot more going on in this system than we are being told. I wouldn't be surprised if even Taylor or the Captain don't know about."

James says, "That's not surprising really, the question is do you know more than the rest of us, or are you hoping to find out more somehow?"

"Whoa…whoa…../careful/ Iceblade." Paz says, holding out a hand in warning. "You're playing with serious fire here. Please make sure you don't get yourself burned."

"Since when is anyone told anything?" Walsh shrugs. "That's nothing new. But yeah. Do we really -want- to know?"

Phillip nods at James before looking at Paz and then Walsh. "It could be nothing or it could be something that could give us a heads up next time we meet up with either the humans or the cats in this system. We know that this system has been under enemy hands for about 2 years give or take; yet the cats somehow haven't managed to take care of a group of pirates or left behind militia."

Paz shrugs a little. "Well, they have been kind of busy of late," she points out. "Or maybe they never took this system very seriously," she adds. "If you've got an idea, let's hear it."

James says, "I still don't get why you're talking to us about this instead of the higher ups. Paz can probably ok a flight but it would be much easier if the wing commander was on board."

Walsh listens to what Phillip has to say, and nods at Paz's assessment. "Hell, this is Gemini. Pirates are like flies on a dead sheep. Confed's not doing much about them if you're really honest. Why would Kitties be any different?"

Phillip first responds to James, "I don't want to present this to the Wing Commander until I can get some confirmation about something." Looking at Walsh, "Ordinary pirates would probably have difficulty maintaining an operation in a system this long. Hard to get food or other supplies when the system is at a dead end. They also would have bugged out long ago." He pauses and looks at the three pilots about to talk further.

Paz purses her lips thoughtfully and simply nods. "I'm listening."

Walsh raises his eyebrows. "I see your point. They must be sitting on something pretty big to justify staying here." He rub his chin thoughtfully.

James says, "So what exactly are you thinking? Frankly as long as they are shooting cats and not us we need to be cautious so we don't end up being shot at by the cats and them."

Phillip continues, "Don't you find it beyond curious that the pirates somehow managed to get their hands on a Hhriss in this backwater. It is certainly not a fighter the cats send to a minor base. Add to this, the skill level of the human pilots here, they definitely aren't cut-off militia or run of the mill pirates." Phillip pauses a second.

"So you're suggesting the pirates and the Fuzzy Wuzzies are in cahoots?" Paz queries simply. "It's not /completely/ outrageous, I guess, but why give the pirates a valuable star fighter when they've got plenty of their own? Why bother supporting them at all, for that matter? Easier just to wipe 'em out and capture their supplies."

James says, "To put it bluntly I think you're being paranoid Iceblade. I think I mentioned this before but who's to say that the Hhriss wasn't on a transport en route to a carrier or major base that the pirates or whoever snatched, and then kept the bird?"

"Oh yeah, that," Walsh says quietly. He probably should've been paying more attention to the conversation the other day, and less to a certain female pilot. Ahem. Blame tiredness. Or something. In any case, he listens carefully.

Phillip looks toward Paz and listening, thinks for a second before responding, "Probably not, partially for the reasons you suggested." Turning towards James, Phillip replies, "That might be possible, but I'm thinking the cats actually have something major in the system. Whatever base they have lying around here certainly contributed a lot of fighters in the cat's strike against us a week or so ago."

James shrugs, "It's possible though the question of why they would put a major base here remains. Still all things considered wouldn't the carrier group be more important to take out then the base? The base can't exactly chase us from system to system after all."

Walsh nods. "There's -something- in-system, I'll give you that. Those bombers didn't -all- come from the jump point. Question is, what sort of strength they still have after that smashing."

"Okay, you didn't hear this from me, okay?" Paz says having been quiet for some length as she listened to the discussion unfold. "Some of this information is sensitive and I /insist/ that it not leave this room." she says firmly, waiting a few beats for that to sink in. "There is a base here. We're hunting it so we don't get bushwhacked when me move to attack the carrier group sitting on the jump point. How big a base it is, I don't know. Not sure command knows either."

James blinks, "Logical but what stops the carrier group from striking while we're hunting for or worse hitting the base?"

Phillip listens to the others before responding, "Yeah, I had pretty much guessed that we were searching for some kind of base, mobile or stationary. Why else recon in asteroids." Phillip turns to James, "Probably because we depleted the strike capability of the cats. It seems nearly every group launched downed a couple of bombers or a Kamekh."

Paz nods. "Yeah, that carrier took it right in the shorts when we hit it," she says flatly. "They're not in any shape to offer much resistance. Trouble is, we don't know what else the Fuzzies have hereabouts. We don't dare turn our back on them until we've neutralized the threat."

James replies, "But the carrier is in a much better position to receive replacement craft and pilots then the base is, unless it can manufacture fighters and happens to have spare pilots aboard."

"Ay, Paz," Walsh says, turning his head towards her, "We're having this conversation in the cargo hold, all secret-squirrel-like. Of course we didn't hear it from you." Seriously, now, "So, effectively, we have to find and swat their base, and get through the jump point, before either receives significant reinforcements, or things get -fun-"

After hearing Walsh, Phillip interjects towards James, "That is the thing, if my thinking is right, the cats may have a more significant base and fighter force here. We, at least us non-CO pilots, just don't know."

Paz gives a little shrug. "I know, it just seemed like the thing to say," she notes simply. "Also, recon and SWACS are reporting that the Fuzzies at the jump point have hunkered down. They're either waiting for replacements and supplies or for us to come to them. Whatever that base is, they figure it's strong enough to take care of itself."

James says, "Which to me sounds like the perfect reason to hit the jump point now since sooner or later we'll have to hit it anyway, and the sooner we do so the less likely they are to be reinforced. By the time the base's fighters can scramble and catch up we'll most likely be into the next system."

Walsh looks doubtful. "Either way, it's still on their terms. We'd have to worry about what the base has in the way of jump capable craft. Not to mention whatever's on the -other- side of the jump." There's a nice thought.

Phillip shakes his head in negative at James, "The Cats would probably detect our fleet approach, certainly would be too big a risk to attempt. Besides there is something else I have discovered. Now I don't know if it actually is anything more than an odd coincidence, but it is definitely suspicious."

Paz nods to Walsh. "Exactly. Deal with the devil you know, then worry about the one you don't," she says. "It's not a perfect solution, but if we had perfect solutions, we'd all be on our way home with Kilrah in flames by now," she snerks. "Besides, we don't know what's /at/ this base. If it's trouble, having it at our back could wind up biting us in the ass big time," she notes. "Oh, one more thing, there's been a few of the Mardet officers showing up at our morning briefs," she says, frowning thoughtfully. "Makes sense, if there's a base here, they'll be the ones who have to seize the territory. But, thought it was worth mentioning."

James grimaces, "I agree except there's one major flaw in your logic Paz. The Jump Point fleet is the devil we know not the base."

Walsh eyes James. "The whole Xytani system is one big unknown. We don't want to be jumping through there with them behind us as well." He considers what Paz just said. "So they're already doing prelims for a ground assault. Interesting."

After listening to the others, Phillip nods, "Could be for capturing supplies like missiles, no telling how long until we can get back to Confed space."

"Heh, fellas, for all I know they're planning a fuckin' floor show." Paz chuckles throatily. "But the logical, reasonable, rational thing to suspect of our brother service," she says, and for a change, manages not to sneer. "Is getting their game face on for a combat hop. Who they're going to jump on, I couldn't tell you," she says, shrugging again. "And, again, thank you, Walsh. Jumping into a system we know beans about with hostiles at our back is a nice way for us to get dead real fast, guy," she says firmly to James. "Hey, I wanna get out of here as much as the next person, but I'd prefer to be able to celebrate it. Hard to do that if I'm vapor."

James shrugs, "The cats don't have that many carriers or we would have lost this war long ago. More than we do, yes, but not enough to keep them in every system, and they haven't had time to re-establish major bases in the systems we passed through on the way here. Jump capable craft from the base are a possible threat but they don't have the fuel to chase us very far."

"In any case, I think there's too many 'what ifs' to just go charging straight through," Walsh says. "Ignoring the base would put a tight time limit on smashing through and jumping before they can respond. No time to scout the other side of the point, for example. What if they've laid a minefield?"

Phillip is a little taken aback by Paz's response to James. Upon hearing James' response, Phillip nods, "Definitely true." After letting Walsh speak, Phillip adds, "Plus, there is no telling how many smaller battle groups are running around between here and Confed space." Phillip then thinks for a second trying to remember something…oh it is the actually reason he brought them down here. "Uh guys, there is something else. Something I've noticed that I don't think is a simple glitch."

Paz gives a frustrated little sigh and holds up her index finger to James as she rifles through the pockets of her fatigues, finally coming up with a white rectangle of paper, which she begins to unfold to reveal a Confed memorandum form. "Here, tell that to the people who make the decisions, Cutlass," she says, passing it to James. "Who knows, maybe they'll listen?" she shrugs. "Ah shit, what else have you noticed, 2nd Lieutenant?" she queries, then frowns a little. "And what's with all this noticing of stuff, Iceblade? When did you turn so bloody observant," she pouts teasingly.

James says, "If they've mined the jump point we're pretty much screwed no matter what unless we can sweep them from this side somehow. In the case they have it's more a matter of luck in not hitting a mine when we emerge from jump than anything else. We don't exactly have enough minesweepers handy to just throw them into the fields after all."

Walsh sighs. "It's null and void anyway; it's not your call or mine." He looks to Phillip. "So, what's your big piece of insight?"

"Well I've been thinking about these things for a while as each oddity has been building up," Phillip says to Paz. "Anyway, about two weeks ago, when I was preparing my after action reports following our encounter with that Hhriss, I had looked back at my ship's message log to include the exact message that the Hhriss' pilot had said. I noticed, though, that the message included a message right after that that was apparently from the Hhriss. But it looked like gibberish, so I just chalked it to a weird computer glitch or something."

"Heh, you just keep thinking those happy thoughts, Cutlass." Paz chuckles darkly. "/God/ I wish they'd open up the hooch locker again." she sighs. "I want a whiskey so big, it's got a diving board attached." she grumps. "Okay, so, what did Senor Fuzzy Wuzzy have to say to you, Iceblade?" she inquires, looking a bit wary at the thought of new bad news.

James nods and says, "You think it was an encrypted message obviously. I'm guessing you've talked to someone whom has training in decoding, or were you trained in that yourself at some point?"

Walsh chuckles in agreement with Paz's yearning for booze, but otherwise stays silent, listening intently for Phillip's revelation.

"I included the Hhriss' pilot spoken message in the report, but the message under just looked like gibberish, or so I thought originally," Phillip responds to Paz and James. "However, I'm beginning to think otherwise after what I noticed while on my patrol in the 'roids today."

"Lieutenant Bradford." Paz says firmly, perhaps even sharply, in a tone of voice previously most of those assembled have never heard from her before. "I appreciate that you're looking to stretch out the drama, but you've got two pilots here that are desperate for rack time and a CO that's up to her eyeballs in ten meters' worth of bullshit paperwork, and that's /with/ my yeoman," she says. "So pretty please, with sugar on top, would you get to the bloody point already?" she asks, exasperated.

Walsh bites his tongue, and does his best to keep a straight face. He does agree to an extent about the suspense factor, privately.

Phillip sighs, "Alright, well on the patrol today I noticed two gibberish messages in the message log. One really short emitting from an unknown ship and the other longer actually coming from my Rapier. After Debrief, I looked at several prior logs, and I didn't see this occur in any of them except for our brief encounter with those Talons the other day. When that Talon messaged us as it was leaving, I got the another gibberish message. I don't think this is just coincidence or a problem with my fighter. You guys might want to check out your logs from encounters with these guys. See if you guys are getting these same…" Phillip pauses as he pulls out three small slips of paper from his pocket, "…messages." Phillip holds out the small slips of folded over paper.

Written on each slip of paper is are four messages each with a date and time. The first is long and from the engagement with the Hhriss (log: Wolf in Cat's Clothing) with the source being from the Hhriss. The second is shorter and from the fight between the cats and two Talons who ran away shortly after Confed arrived (log: Kitty on the Rocks) with the source being the lead Talon. The final two are from Phillip's flight from earlier today with the first being the shortest by far with only two short "words" with an unknown source and the second being much longer and coming from Phillip's Rapier. All of the messages are seemingly gibberish as if somebody just smashed a bunch of keys on a keyboard.

Paz peers at the paper, then back to Phillip. "Have you shown these to Intel?" she asks immediately. "And if not, why?" she adds, a funny expression in her eyes as she queries.

James says, "Sure I'll check my fighter out later. You would think whoever checked the flight logs would have forwarded it to Intel but maybe not."

Walsh looks over the paper, thoughtfully. "Hmm. Easy to overlook, but considering the timing… I'm not a cryptologist, obviously, but it looks like someone's gone to some trouble to hide something. But -what-?"

Phillip responds to James first, "They probably don't check these that closely." Looking back at Paz, Phillip replies, "I wanted to get some confirmation that this was indeed not just a computer glitch, and if this isn't just a glitch, then I think Intel has an operation going on here and we are involved in it blindly."

"Iceblade, why didn't you come to me with this before now?" Paz asks simply, dark eyes hardening imperceptibly. "We should've had Intel and crypto on this the /second/ you found it. If it's a dataminer or some kind of Fuzzy Wuzzy trick, we could be advertising our position all over the Goddamned sector. If it's something even weirder, we could've maybe had an insight as to what," she sighs, shaking her head. "Lieutenant, the next time you run across a funny you come to /me/ with it first. Nobody else." she says firmly. "I applaud your persistence and research skill," she notes, nodding slowly. "But, /dude/……. If I could read minds and see the future, I wouldn't be flying for the damn Confed," she chuckles. "I'd be playing high-stakes poker on planet Richie Rich and making a killing."

James says, "I imagine if I could see the future I would be higher ranking by now and heading up fast. Plus we wouldn't be in this whole mess of course since I would have seen the kitty counterstrike coming. If I could get the higher ups to listen at least."

"Yeah…" Walsh trails off for a moment, thinking. "Those ones from today — real suspicious. Looks to me like your bird's squawking a response to something. Which means your computer's been tampered with…"

Phillip shrugs, "Well, the only time I noticed this before today was two weeks ago and I barely gave it a passing thought at the time. I didn't even remember it until earlier today when I noticed those last two messages in my log while on patrol. Hell I wouldn't have even seen it had I not been trying to adjust power to my sensors while avoiding giant rocks."

Paz gives a long, slow nod and sighs again. "Madre Dios, Tori, why did you have to get promoted to XO?" she sighs, aggrieved. "Okay, enough Monday morning quarter backing. You've obviously told me as soon as you knew. My apologies for the slight reaming, hey, sue me, I'm new at this and tired as shit," she shrugs. "Anyhow, we need to get Intel to your bird ASAP," she says firmly. "Something is messing with it, that's for certain. Now we find out what, and maybe why."

Phillip shrugs, "The ball is in your court Tizona."

"Now here's the thing that's really bugging me." Walsh says, thinking aloud. "As far as I know, messing with the onboard computer requires physical access. Which means there's either someone on board tampering with things, or it's a feature by design." He gives a worried look to the others. "Either way, that's some -spooky- shit."

James says, "Yeah I don't exactly like that either but I wouldn't put it past Intel to set something like that up."

Paz frowns a little and nods. "C'mon, Iceblade." she sighs, making for the exit. "Gentlemen." she nods to the others. "For Christ's sake, go get some /sleep/!" she says firmly. "You're gonna need a hell of a lot more than you'll gonna get. Iceblade, let's go talk to Intel about your findings." she says, stifling a yawn behind her fist. "God, but I've got a /bad/ feeling about this….."